Friday, July 08, 2011

Matisyahu - Live at the Minnesota Zoo

Minnesota, usually known for the depths of cold during our winters, wanted to remind everyone that this state can also have some wicked summers, coating everyone in the filled amphitheater at the Minnesota Zoo with a sheen of sweat from the breeze-less, 95 degree, 99% humidity weather as they waited for Matisyahu to perform. The sweltering heat did nothing to keep the crowd from enjoying the show, however, and didn’t even phase Matisyahu as he put on a top-notch performance for all in attendance.

The show got off to a late start, but after the North Mississippi All-Stars got the crowd warmed up, the sun started to set, the lights came up, everyone rose to their feet in cheers, and Matisyahu took to the stage, taking no time at all to dive in and get started. The first few songs of the night were filled with an abundance of energy, an essential ingredient for getting the hot, sweaty crowd involved with the music. What was interesting to experience during this portion of the show, and actually throughout most of the performance, was the heavy focus on the band and the raw, aggressive approach with which they played. The opening song, “Close My Eyes,” worked as a perfect lead-off, containing all of the facets of Matisyahu’s music—reggae, rock, and some hip-hop flow—and gave everyone a chance to get involved with the music.

Using the energy of “Close My Eyes” the band transitioned into an extended version of “Youth” complete with a meditation, as well as a chance for the Dub Trio (Matisyahu’s band) to show off as they created a post-hardcore maelstrom (believe it or not) before pulling back and giving everyone a chance to catch their breath. From this point, things slowed a big as the popular songs “Jerusalem” and “Darkness into Light” let the crowd slow down and sway with the reggae beats.

The second half of the set was not quite as dynamic as the first, but it was more consistent and flowed quite naturally as Matisyahu interspersed his beatboxing and stories of his previous visits to Minneapolis with crowd favorites such as “King Without a Crown” and the set closer “One Day.” This approach actually made sense, though, especially in light of the oppressive weather, to expend the crowd’s energy at the beginning of the show and then mellow out during the progression towards the show’s conclusion. As the pre-encore show closed with “One Day” the crowd sung in unison with the chorus, making it readily apparent that Matisyahu still commanded the full attention of everyone there.

Only waiting for a couple of minutes after leaving the stage, the band returned to the stage for their encore and broke into “Warrior” before closing out with Matisyahu’s take on Bob Marley’s “Rastaman Chant.” With the cover song’s conclusion, followed by many hearty cheers, a weathered and entertained crowd made their way through the maze out of the zoo to the parking lot all chattering about both the show and the weather, the former in quite a positive light while the latter was vehemently derided, rightfully so.

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